Stewart Boot Co. has been designing and crafting hand-made western boots since a time when the iconic footwear was an indispensable part of life in the Southwest.
The business began in 1940 as a partnership between Mexican businessman Adolfo Romero and American designer, Ronnie Stewart. Vic Borg purchased the business in 1970 and still runs the one-building operation with the help of a few long-time employees, most from Leon, Mexico.
“It takes a special kind of person to do this kind of work,” he says over the blare of the Spanish-language radio station in the work-area.
When speaking of his employees, he notes that they have all been working together for more years than he cares to count.
“Without them I would not have a business,” he says, adding that everyone looks out for one another as each strives to cope with declining retail accounts.
Borg says demand for his custom hand-made boots was driven by small retail outlets, from which he has seen a steady decline in orders.
“We were making about 800 or 900 pairs a month,” Borg says. Now many of the “small Mom and Pop stores have been driven out of business by the large chains."
Stewart's crew would work overtime to keep up with the steady demand of more than 150 ongoing account. Borg says he now has 10.
Borg says the Internet isn't a viable method for selling custom boots. “I prefer to look them in the eye during the fitting,” he says. “Sure we can go back and forth through the mail, but it will never be the same.”